While in the Fort Myers area of Florida, I heard about the burrowing owls in nearby Cape Coral. These are little tiny owls only about 6-9 inches tall that live in burrows in the ground.
I have learned that doing research is essential to getting good photographs, especially if you have a limited amount of time. Searching online I found out that many people had spotted the owls in a field next to a parking lot at the library. Now there’s somewhere I never would have looked! I knew they were smart, but owls at the library? That seems a little too Winnie-the-Pooh but who am I to question a cliche?
Local citizens want to protect the little owls so they put t-stakes around any burrows they find so people will not walk on them and collapse the burrows, and it gives the owls a little perch at the same time.
I went to the library parking lot and saw the field and the stakes, but no owls.
A local fellow was out for his morning walk and I asked him about the owls. He said he saw them almost every day. He asked where we were from and was very interested in our trip. We had a great conversation about travel and living life to the fullest before he went on his way.
A couple of minutes later, we heard some whistling from down the street and there he was waving his arms around to get our attention. He had come across some owls.
It is hard to get a sense of scale in these photographs since you cannot really put another object in the frame. Just imagine him not much bigger than your hand. In person, the owls are so endearing with their compact bodies and huge yellow eyes. This one was well camouflaged in the dry grass.
To make these images, I approached the burrows very slowly with my 400mm lens handheld. I first made some images looking down on the owl inside the burrow to capture the environment and just get a quick shot in case he took off. After he got used to me I went a little closer and got closer to the ground to be at eye level with him.
In order to make a greater distinction between the owl and the background, I darkened the background grass in post-processing.
Here is another owl I found in a different location. This one was a bit easier because the owl was sitting up on one of the t-stakes and there were some dark green trees in the background that nicely contrasted with the owl’s coloring.
I wish I could have made an image with more than one owl in the frame, but they would not pose for me that way. In any case I felt lucky to have met them.
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